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The two men pulled Luc and me from the back of the van, and immediately blindfolded us with black cloth. The strips smelled of stale air and tobacco and let in absolutely no light. I was content to stand again and stretch until one of the men shoved me forward. The evening air crept through the thin material of my blouse, but not my pants, making me glad I had not chosen to wear a dress. Luc’s freezing fingers found my hand and held it securely. An onslaught of musty air warmed my face and the moved the veil, an insignificant amount, from my left eye. Although I had only millimeters to move the mask before my captors noticed, I shook my head with a motion as small as possible. The knot tied at the back of my head slid down.
We had entered the warehouse while I adjusted my view, and the room we stopped in was surrounded by metal corridors, similar to heating ducts. The walls were the same bare, silver metal as the corridors except for a panel of instructions, written in English. Why would there be instructions in an empty warehouse, and what were they for? All passageways were dark except for one, where a dark blue light shone at the end.
I saw Luc, with my peripheral vision, squirm when one man placed his hand on Luc’s shoulder. We had separated our hands when we walked in, so Luc and I now stood a few feet apart. The man nearest him barked a sentence of French to Luc. Luc jumped and responded that he did not know me but recognized me from some magazine when he got in the van. The man grabbed his arm and thrust him down the lit hallway. I shook my head to make the blindfold go back into place.
I waited for the man left with me to say something, but he didn’t. Then the thought struck that maybe they didn’t know I spoke French. I turned around, asked him why I was here, and, sure enough, he gasped.
“You can speak this language?” he asked. When I nodded, he finally followed Luc and his captor.
The passageway ceiling was not lit. Instead the floor glowed a luminescent blue when the man touched a keypad. With all the technology there must be some purpose for this warehouse. He entered a password and we were admitted into a small, shadowy room. The ambiance was gloomy and sinister. The clank of metal hitting metal sounded somewhere. A single light flickered on above me. The man removed my blindfold and I saw him in detail for the first time.
His sleek hair was a dark brown. Incisive blue eyes shifted back and forth, not nervously but as if taking in every feature. The skin I could see was somewhere between pale and tan. A black leather jacket was unzipped over a black shirt, giving me the impression of a secret agent. Sharp cheekbones cut edges into the smooth expanse of his face. The gruff voice still echoed in my mind and yet he sat awkwardly in a chair across from me.
The design of the room was like an interrogator’s: freezing, a single light, two chairs on opposite sides of a table. Maybe he would question me, but for what? I had not done anything. I was still contemplating when he spoke.
“We have discovered a plot against your father. He is aware of your location and his dilemma. Both he and your mother are under the protection of the French government. We have withheld information from others at the conference. That is all we can tell you at this time.”
I sank down in shock. Why would someone want to hurt my father? He was fair and truly cared about his constituents. If this was not a kidnapping, then why was Luc here? And who was this man across from me? He continued to speak before I could ask.
“This site should be far enough out of the public eye to protect you from harm. By the way, you can call me Jack.” I realized how great my personal danger was. I stared at Jack, who uncomfortably shifted away from the desk.
“Follow me,” he waved toward the door, “I will escort you to your room.”
The hallway was no longer lit. Jack became apprehensive and stayed near the wall with me in tow. Our nearly silent footsteps matched and echoed off the bare walls. I crashed into him suddenly as he stooped to reach something, which appeared to be a vent.
“After you,” he murmured. I looked into the desolate space and hesitantly moved my head inside. I crawled in, expecting to be cramped but found I could stand.
I felt for a handhold, feeling only ridges and lines not deep enough to be of any help. Jack flicked on a flashlight, momentarily blinding me. Before us stood a door painted black. Underneath the door was black, and apart from the wide circle of light, so was the space we were in. I could barely make out how small it was. A secret room and such clad in darkness only furthered my uncertainties. What had this warehouse been used for?
The equally shady doorknob, once turned, revealed gloomy gears and mechanical parts. We stood on a steel balcony overlooking a boiler room. We climbed down a ladder attached to the wall, and Jack stepped toward yet another door and opened it. This was a damp staircase, the walls lit by torches. It seemed the first level of this building was merely a façade for much more.
Jack walked heavier and more freely than before, so I assumed I was secure here.
“Ja--” I started, before he interrupted abrasively.
“Sh, just wait.” Those were the last words spoken until we came to the end of the steps. The air grew cooler as we rounded a corner. Jack located another keypad, this one blending in with the wall. A door parted like that of an elevator.
Inside was my room. The walls seemed to be actual drywall, something I hadn’t seen since being brought here. It looked normal enough, with a bed and the various furniture of a bedroom. Then he pushed a button.
The bookshelves rotated, like in spy stories. Screens with live video feed covered another wall. The small desk held a control panel, and steps rose into the ceiling. I realized as Jack explained the technology that I would be partly responsible for my own safety.
“This shows you live video of the stairs, outside your door, outside the first door, on the platform, and with this screen,” he said, pointing, “you can communicate with us in headquarters or me specifically.” Seeing my confusion and awe, he laughed, the first relatively ordinary action I had seen from him.
“Don’t worry. Only a select few know of this, and I will be staying nearby as long as you are here. I change the keypad password regularly and the steps can only be accessed with your verification. Now, the bookshelves.” We turned to look at the marvelous specimen.
“Most of these will only stun, so they are safe to use if you even suspect an invader. This gun, however,” he pointed again and rattled off the type, “is only to be used with training and if an invader is directly inside your quarters.”
“Okay,” I whispered. He studied me for a moment.
“If it makes you feel better, there’s this.” He showed me another keypad that would require my confirmation. A hall led into another room.
“This is where I will stay, so I can always help quickly.” The room looked similar to mine, but it had a bit more equipment. I didn’t know what would emerge, however, when he pushed a button.
We entered information and passwords into the computer on the desk. I learned what button to press to order food and other supplies and open the door to the bathroom.
“Well, I will let you settle in. Tell me if you need anything.” Jack walked to his room and left me to think.